The algorithm knows what you like to eat, what you want to buy, and, now it could be responsible for raising your rent.
Real estate company RealPage is currently being sued for allegedly using its software to help landlords inflate rental costs. The antitrust class-action lawsuit claims that the company participated in anti-competitive prices by using its algorithm to set rental prices and limit the supply of available rental units.
If you’re still confused, think about it this way: The lawsuit alleges that a bunch of lessors used the RealPage tool to artificially jack up rental prices in the area. By all those lessors coordinating to drive up rental costs, it got them a big profit and gave lessees the short end of the stick.
ProPublica initially broke the news of the algorithm-based price hikes, but RealPage is not shy about how its software works. On their website they boast, “Find out how YieldStar can help you outperform the market 3% to 7%.”
The coordinated rent hike speaks to the larger housing crisis plaguing the US. Time will tell how this class-action lawsuit will end, but one thing’s for sure, even with landlords not colluding, it’s hard enough to find affordable housing.